It’s (Almost) Fall, Y’all

This is usually one of my featured posts for October, but I’m really over the hot and humid Summer weather. Gimme all the hoodies, boots, apple crisp, jack-o lanterns, crunchy leaf piles – you name it! I’m so ready.

If you haven’t already guessed, autumn is my favorite season. Most of all, I love that you can walk from the front door to the car without breaking into a sweat. It’s one of the best times to get out and get moving. And what better way to do that, than to check out some of the area’s best haunted attractions.

My husband and I started a tradition of visiting different haunted houses/hayrides each weekend from late September through the end of October. This will be our SIXTH year. Not only is it a crazy good time, but between the scares, belly laughs, and trekking through cornfields and woods, it’s also a pretty awesome way to burn some calories and squeeze in a few thousand extra steps. Gotta make room for the apple crisp and cider doughnuts at the end!

In my experience, PA is good for haunts – they are perfectly creepy, gory, and even downright funny. Actors are allowed to touch you in the sense that they can poke, prod, run fingers through hair, and in some cases, put you in a cage or jump up on a wagon and drag you off. Call me crazy, but I think these things add to the suspense, fear, and entertainment, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Tips

  • Plan Ahead – We (well, I) like to map out our haunts in early September so we have a clear action plan. Some of the places we travel to are over 3 hours away (this is serious stuff!). If you don’t want to drive 6 hours or more round trip, check out some local hotels and make a weekend getaway out of it.
  • Visit Early – Most attractions are open the last two weekends of September, which is actually the perfect time to go. Lines are short and you can get by with paying for the base ticket instead of upgrading (see below).
  • Dress in Layers – Fall weather is unpredictable. Remember the time it snowed on Halloween? It’s always a good idea to wear pants if you will be in a wooded area (deer ticks). Two years ago we needed hand and foot warmers because the wagon ride was so cold. Last year I worked up a sweat in a t-shirt. Just check the weather before you go.
  • Wear Proper Footwear – This shouldn’t have to be said, but still – don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or heels because…duh. Choose something that will support your feet while walking on uneven ground. Boots or sneakers are always good options.
  • Splurge for the VIP Pass – When it comes to haunted attractions (and amusement parks), I really believe in going all-out. You might spend $25 or more per person for a VIP ticket, but that will allow you to skip the lines and go first. Why is this a big deal? Believe it or not, you could be waiting in line for hours before you even get to go through one attraction. That just sucks the fun right out of everything. Do yourself a favor – get this pass and you can do the royalty wave to everyone else as you board your wagon.

NY/PA Attractions

#6 – The Barn of Terror

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Photo property of The Barn of Terror

My Rating: 1.5 Stars

Location: Lake Katrine, NY

Cost: CASH ONLY – ATM on site

  • $33 per person (2017 price)

Theme: Creepy Farm Family

Duration: About 60 minutes

Review: I kept waiting for something to happen and it just didn’t. First you walk through an 8-room barn and silo, then you take a bus down to a corn maze. The barn was dark and the costumes were pretty cheap and mostly looked the same – bloody hockey mask and black robe. The corn maze was so boring I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Truly disappointing that the space is there, but the creativity isn’t. After 16 years in business (this year), you would think there would be more excitement.

Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time. Regardless of the stellar reviews on Facebook, this “haunt” is not worth your time or money. The only reason it gets 1.5 stars is that I got quite a few steps in thanks to the corn maze.

#5 – Headless Horseman

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My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Location: Ulster Park, NY

Cost: Prices cheaper online.

  • $45.90 + tax – Online Ticket
  • $49.95 + tax – On-site Ticket
  • $25 extra for Scream Pass (aka VIP badge of honor)
  • Special discount for opening night

Theme: The Hollow

Duration: 2.5-3 hours (depending on wait times)

Review: There are 10 attractions (including a hayride, corn maze, and several haunted houses) and a little “village” of gift shops and cafes, which makes for a full evening. All guests must go through a bag check / metal detector after purchasing tickets. Keep this in mind because that line gets long fast and all ticket holders are considered equal until you pass through the gates. The hayride theme changes slightly every year, but the other attractions are pretty much “fixed.” Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. Last year we went on opening night back in September and were disappointed that the company didn’t take advantage of their 25th year in business to do something special for the guests. It was like any other year with the ridiculously long lines and predictable haunts.

Bottom Line: If you live in or around the Hudson Valley, it’s worth it at least once. Otherwise, meh.

#4 – Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride

My Rating: 3 Stars

Location: Glen Mills, PA

Cost:

  • $43 –  Combo – General admission to all three events
  • $79.50 – VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events
  • $104.50 – Super VIP Combo – Front of the line privileges to all three events, PLUS: VIP parking, hot dog, popcorn, soft drink, and t-shirt

Theme: The Walking Dead Meets Prehistoric Times

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were zombies, there were dinosaurs. There were also spiders, snakes, and clowns. A scare for everyone. It was just okay. We went on a weekend in September – there weren’t any lines so we were able to get by on just the base ticket. There were only three attractions – hayride, corn maze, and haunted house. The theme was a bit odd, but the special effects were pretty cool. I love Psycho and A&E’s Bates Motel series, but there was little connection to both. I think the majority of my disappointment stems from just wanting more.

Bottom Line: If you’re in the area, I would recommend checking it out for a fun evening. But if you have to drive over an hour, I’d say skip it.

#3 – Pure Terror Scream Park

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Location: Monroe, NY

Cost: CASH ONLY. Prices cheaper on-site.

  • $45.25 – Online General Admission
  • $68.69 – Online VIP Admission

Theme: Clowns

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were clowns. Lots of clowns. There were also spiders and very dark places. A scare for everyone, really. After I got over the frustration of finding the place, parking, and waiting in line, it was fun. We went on opening night so it was cheaper and there were fewer people. There are six haunted houses that are seriously awesome. One group is admitted at a time, which causes a really long wait in line, but a better experience once you’re actually inside. The makeup and special effects were so good that it was hard to tell real person from prop. I love that they incorporated the 2017 release of IT into one of the houses – very nice touch! Last year was our first visit, but according to the website, the content is freshened up each year. This will definitely be an annual trip!

Bottom Line: Don’t wait – add this to your list.

#2 Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

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My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Location: Spring City, PA

Cost: Online tickets have varying service charges

  • $20 – Individual Attraction Tickets
  • $35-45 – Combo Pass – General admission to 3 haunted attractions
  • $49 – Super Combo Pass – General admission to 4 haunted attractions
  • $78 – Pennhurst VIP Pass – Front of the line privileges to all 4 haunted attractions

Theme: Insane Asylum

Duration: Approx. 2 hours

Review: This place is really cool because it used to be a real asylum. The original buildings have been re-purposed to create a haunted insane asylum, catacombs, and more. There isn’t a hayride, but you won’t be disappointed by the 3 main attractions: Pennhurst Asylum, The Morgue (new for 2018), and Containment Tunnels. The Mayflower After Dark is a self-guided tour of an original campus building. There are creepy clowns and walking dead, but the real terror here is the idea of the insane asylum and the horrible things that were probably done there. That and the fact that you spend a lot of time walking in near darkness and through strobe lights. While you are waiting on the lines, you may or may not be terrorized by the cast members. Luckily, the VIP pass will help you avoid this. I (we) can’t wait to visit again this year!

Bottom Line: You’ve gotta go! This one will be on your list for years to come.

 #1 Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Attraction

My Rating: 5 Stars

Location: Scranton, PA

Cost: CASH ONLY – ATM on-site; Online tickets have a $2.75 service charge

  • $35-45– General Admission
  • $70 – VIP Package
  • $25 VIP Upgrade (on-site ONLY)
  • $3 – Parking

Theme: All Things Creepy

Duration: 75-90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There are 4 attractions including a hayride, dark forest walk-through, pitch-black indoor walk-through, and zombie maze. There are hillbillies, spiders, zombies, government officials (scariest of all). The Grim Reaper and Michael Myers even make appearances out in the woods. There’s also something really cool that happens during the hayride, but you’ll have to just take my word for it because saying too much would just ruin it. The combination of so many different attractions and a super long and enjoyable hayride makes this my (our) number one choice. The first time we did this, we were laughing, we were screaming, we were having so much fun. We wanted to do it again. Last year we made a special trip on Friday, October 13th – right after we got hitched!!

Bottom Line: Make the trip. I don’t care if you’re in California, Florida, or Toronto. It’s worth it.

I hope you go and have a great. I’d love to know if I’m missing out on any good ones 🙂

Happy (Almost) Fall!

LIIFT4 Sneak Peek!

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Photo property of Beachbody, LLC

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you purchase from Beachbody via my links. Please do not feel obligated to do so!

It feels like I’ve been waiting months to try LIIFT4. Oh wait. I have.

You see, the program actually did a soft launch in July and those who were dying to try it could purchase a challenge pack or a opt for a one-time BOD early access fee. I just decided to wait with the rest of the world and take full advantage of the FREE launch in October.

But the more I see the awesome results people have been getting from LIIFT4, the more I’m excited to try it for myself.

What, exactly, is LIIFT4?

An awesome combination of weight training and high-intensity cardio. It will get you shredded in record time. Over the course of eight weeks, you’ll workout 4 times a week for less than 40 mins a day. On off days you can choose another workout or swap in the two stretch workouts Joel has created. You’ll use weights and also have the option of resistance bands.

I was able to try out a sample LIIFT4 workout. It was fun, but definitely kicked my butt. But 30 minutes a day, 4 times a week? Count me in!

The Trainer

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Photo property of Beachbody, LLC

Joel Freeman – Elite personal trainer and co-creator of Core de Force. I would love the chance to meet Joel. He’s super motivational, down to earth, and makes the workouts fun.

Nutrition

Nothing’s a secret about the nutrition plan as of today – it’s all on BOD. You’ll use the Portion Fix Containers and can incorporate Shakeology and the Beachbody Performance Line. If you’re looking to build serious muscle, add more containers. It’s that easy! There’s also a vegan plan if you’re so inclined.

One thing that separates this program from the rest is the weekly optional cheat day. On Sunday (or another day before a working day) indulge in a brownie, beer, or even some Halo Top. Just don’t go overboard. Fun stuff!

It goes without saying, but make sure you are drinking plenty of water during the workouts and throughout the day – at least half of your body weight. It will cut down on hunger and keep you hydrated. You might even consider adding Beachbody Performance Hydrate into your routine (it’s like a healthier Gatorade). I also love Beachbody Performance Energize to get that jumpstart before the workout even begins.

Since the program is pretty rigid, Sunday meal prep will help you stay on track. Even if you just make meal starters to help you with dinners throughout the week, you will be one step ahead.

The Results

Right now this is one of the newest programs and it has a ton of hype surrounding it (like all Beachbody programs). Joel has even said you can “train hard, get results, and still have a life.” Now, that’s my kind of program. To be honest, it’s a challenge to fit in long workouts like in 80 Day Obsession

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Photo property of Beachbody, LLC

Bottom Line: Beachbody claims that LIIFT4 will transform your body in just 8 weeks. It’s a bold claim considering there are only 4 working days. However, participants are encouraged to do other workouts on off days. I’m thinking Country Heat and running will be good for me.  I approve of the the back-to-basics simple nutrition and workouts, and I’m hoping I love this just as much as SHIFT SHOP!

In all, I seriously can’t wait until October 1st!

 

 

I know you know, but I have to say it anyway…always consult your doctor before beginning an intense exercise, fitness, and/or diet program.

Visit teambeachbody.com for more information on programs or sign up for Beachbody On Demand to try out a sample LIIFT4 workout!

Eat this. You’ll be full for hours!

I’ve always struggled to find breakfast foods that keep me full until lunch. Even during my school days, I’d find my stomach rumbling around 10 am. During a test. When you could hear a pencil drop. Talk about embarrassing.

Well, a few weeks ago I stumbled upon two recipes I just had to try: grilled polenta triangles & ratatouille.

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Doesn’t it look delish?

I first tried polenta five years ago at my cousin’s wedding and it was glorious. But after a while, it kind of just fell off my radar.

As for ratatouille, the only experience I have is with the Pixar movie. That was a cute one, by the way. Note to watch it again.

Turns out both super easy to make and taste heavenly. And when you add a couple of eggs, you’ve got the easiest meal ever. It can be prepped ahead of time, reheats well, and will keep you full until your next meal.

For the last two weeks, my Sunday meal prep has included both of the above. I’ll use this recipe for the polenta (and mix in 1/2 stick of butter and some parmesan just before step 2). And this one for the ratatouille.

The only thing I don’t prep in advance are the eggs, but they’re easy to fry up the morning of. I like mine over-medium, in case anyone wondered. And yes, I cook them in real (full-fat) butter!

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Voila!

If you stick to a container system, I count them as follows*:

  • 1/2 cup polenta (or one thick slab) – (Y, tsp & negligible amount of B)
  • 1 cup ratatouille (G)
  • 1-2 eggs (R, tsp)

Eat for any meal. It’s yummy, savory, and hearty. It keeps you full – unlike breakfast cereal or even a PB&J.

 

 

*I try to stick to Beachbody’s Portion Fix Containers to make my life easier, I do modify some things and stick to full-fat everything instead of the recommended low or reduced fat to cut down on sugar and other fillers. Do what’s best for you!

An Attitude of Grattitude

For a while, I wasn’t really grateful. For anything. A lot of things sucked and it seemed like the more I felt sad or mad or miserable, the worse things got.

From a young enough age, I’ve held on to anger. Anger towards my bio dad who was never present in my life. Anger towards my stepdad who could have been decent, but chose a different path. Anger towards a boyfriend who left me bruised physically and mentally. So much animosity.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “count your blessings.” Would you believe it if I told you the first time I tried I couldn’t think of anything? I had to write down “I’m thankful for sunny days and rainbows because they make me smile.” All good, of course. But I couldn’t think of anything in my actual life to feel thankful for.

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My newest gratitude journal and gratitude “rock.”

Then I picked up a copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which talks about gratitude being magic. It was actually one of the first personal development books I’ve ever read. Rhonda believes that saying and truly feeling the words “thank you” can turn your life around, and after practicing regularly, I have to agree. When you take a few minutes each day to write about things you’re grateful for, you can feel the love inside of you. You can feel the energy shift.

Each morning as part of my daily ritual, I write down at least five things I’m grateful for. I do the same each night. The only rule is they have to be detailed and heartfelt. It literally takes less than 10 minutes twice a day.

  • Poor Example: I’m grateful for my mom.
  • Awesome Example: I’m grateful my mom kept me company and helped with directions on the drive to NYC to pick my husband up from the airport. I didn’t feel comfortable going alone, but she made the trip enjoyable. I really appreciate her!
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My nanny and mom – the two greatest women in my life.

I also like to take a minute each night to remember the BEST thing that happened to me during the day so I can fall asleep happy. This is another one of Rhonda’s practices – The Magic Rock (found in her book The Magic), where you hold the rock in your palm while you recall the memory. I actually use a small paperweight with my favorite flower in it (above)!

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My love – I have this picture on my desk at work.

When you start feeling happy and grateful, you’ll attract more good things. That’s the energy you want to have!

Tell me, what are you grateful for?

Peace, Love, Zen
DS

Fitness Junkie

About a year or so ago I thought I’d start another blog focused solely on the books I read, which is about 50 a year. It was fun at first but quickly became a full-time job to manage two completely different blogs. Clearly, I need more hours in the day.

Then I realized that Diary of a Snacker is the perfect platform to blog about books related to personal development (PD), fitness, health, cooking, and more. So I give you Little Book Bites – posts about books worth sharing.

And without further ado…

Title: Fitness Junkie
Authors: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Genre: Fiction
DS Rating: 3.5/5

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Maybe you’re not into fitness. I can respect that because five years ago, I wasn’t either. And that’s why Janey Sweet, the protagonist, is like my soul sister. Okay, I’ve never had to drop 30 pounds to keep a job, I’m not a divorcee in my thirties, and I’ve never had a guy take me dumpster diving on a first date. But I can relate to the desire to fit in at the gym, I’ve choked down a glass of green juice just to be healthy, and I’ve demolished a tower of French toast in one sitting (last week, not kidding).

On the other hand, maybe you’re totally obsessed – a true fitness junkie. I’m sure you could laugh at yourself for all of the times you’ve tried the latest fad cleanse, overpaid for fitness classes, and went to the extremes to lose five pounds. I know I’m guilty.

Sometimes you just need a light read and this is it. I finished Fitness Junkie in less than 48 hours because it was so addicting and fun. I just HAD to know what happened next in the saga of Janey. Put this one on your book list right now!

Back to Basics

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you purchase from Beachbody via my links. Please do not feel obligated to do so!

Anyone else sick of being sick and tired? Come on, raise your hands.

This time last year I was wrapping up my first round of Shift Shop, a mind-body workout program that would change the way I thought about exercise. I felt AMAZING afterward and even lost over six pounds and nine inches. That’s huge.

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Last year’s results.

Then, like it always does, life happened. I’m not sure how I lost my groove, but I did. Even though I was working out every day, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’d wake up, struggle through whatever program I was doing, and leave the house in a pretty foul mood.

Let That SHI(F)T Go

Last month I came back from vacation with a renewed sense of self, a greater appreciation for life, and a more positive outlook for the future. I was so tired of being jealous of other people’s accomplishments and progress and was looking for a fresh start.

I decided to turn to my good pal Chris Downing, creator of Shift Shop to help me get my groove back. It’s been the one program that produces consistently amazing results for me – when I stick with it. It challenges me to my absolute limits, but always lets me know that “I can do hard things.”

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I guess I really like these leggings…

For those not familiar with the program, the workouts follow a ramp-up schedule, which means each week they increase by time and intensity. The nutrition plan incorporates the Portion Fix containers ass a guide. A simple formula can help you figure out how many of each container you get per day. My plan is based on a 1,200-1,499 calorie diet.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, sweetie)

This year I learned one of the most critical nutrition lessons: don’t let someone else dictate your meal plan. Everyone tells you how you “should do” this or “should try” that. It drives me freakin’ nuts. There’s keto and vegan and gluten-free and paleo…and I could be here all day listing all of the different diets and ways of eating.

Every source says they have the secret. They promise you’ll lose 10 pounds in 10 days or some other crap to get you to buy a book or a program. Meanwhile, on day two, you’re sitting on your couch eating mint chocolate chip ice cream out of the carton with a spoon. I can’t be the only one.

We overcomplicate everything instead of just taking a little time to see what works for us. Here’s how I found the right plan for me.

First, I had to identify the problem. For me, it was snacking at work. I’m a HUGE snacker (as if you couldn’t have guessed by the name). On the weekends I’m lucky if I even get in two full meals. But during the week? I’m scouting the vending machines for peanut m&ms, kettle chips, and pretzels.

Next, I had to understand why I always wanted to stuff my face. Boredom and stress are huge factors with this one, but so is being nutrient deficient. FYI honey nut cheerios is NOT part of a well-balanced breakfast.

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Shakes are just TOO easy.

Then, I had to build more satisfying meals. I decided to modify the Shift Shop meal plan to create something easier, affordable, and more sustainable.

My Secret Sauce

  • 4 substantial meals, instead of the suggested 6
  • All food eaten between 9 am and 7 pm (most days, anyway)
  • Purple (fruit) and yellow (carb) containers are limited to one per day, eaten before noon
  • Dairy limited as much as possible (some yogurt and cheese okay)

Here’s an example of a menu that keeps me FULL all day:

Meal 1: protein shake w/ veggies & fruit
Meal 2: two hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 sweet potato, cucumber & tomato salad
Meal 3: kale salad w/ tuna, and summer vinaigrette
Meal 4: chicken stir fry

The Power of Habit

It takes 21 days to form a habit, and it helps to have a set routine that you can commit to daily.

Each day I wake up between 5:00 and 5:10 am, shake up my pre-workout, and head downstairs to the gym. Depending on the length of my workout, I’ll have anywhere from 30-60 minutes to spend reading, meditating, or praying, while sipping my pre-workout. Then it’s time to bang out my workout, foam roll, shower, and get ready for the day.

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My daily devotional.

I absolutely love my routine and the quiet of it all. It helps me set good intentions for the day, and it’s something I can repeat daily.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you just need to take a step back, assess where you are in life, and make some positive and lasting changes. When you arrive at a peaceful and grateful state, everything just feels…better. Of course, life will always have its ups and downs, but we’ll be in a better place to handle challenges. We only get one life, and it’s better when we’re happy.

If you’re interested in trying Shift Shop, click here.

Peace, Love, Zen

DS

Going to Universal Studios FL? You NEED an Annual Pass!

I’ve been wanting to do a write-up on Universal for ages. My husband and I love it there, and I mean LOVE in every sense of the word. We’ve gone 1-2x a year since 2014 and it’s like our second home….1,000 miles away. Sometimes we drive and other times fly (they both have their benefits), but we always end up spending a good chunk of our vacation time in the sunshine state.

Actually, in four days, we’ll be on a plane headed back. I just can’t live without frozen Butterbeer and few dozen rides on The Mummy.

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This is, hands down, my FAVORITE ride!

In the past, only Florida residents were able to invest in an Annual Pass. But, not this year! Get this: for less than the price of a 2-park 3-day ticket*, you can get access for the ENTIRE year. Sign me up and take my money!

The Preferred Pass**

This one right here is your ticket to fun. It’s the mid-tier annual pass that gives you a year of access to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

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The Perks:

  • 10% off all restaurants, photos, and select merchandise
  • 15% off at Hard Rock Cafe
  • 20% off Blueman Group & City Walk Party Pass
  • $3.00 off Admission at AMC Universal Cineplex 20
  • Free self-parking (after your first visit; a $22.00 savings each visit)
  • And so, so much more

Be aware that Universal Express or Express Unlimited passes need to be purchased separately at each visit.

Is a Universal Express Pass upgrade worth the price?

Universal Express grants you one-time front of the line access for each ride, while Universal Express Unlimited lets you go again and again until you toss all that carnival food you just ate. (Sorry, not sorry for the visual.)

The first time we went, we were novices. I was shocked by the prices; a 2-park 1-day base ticket will set you back $170*, so we decided to forgo the upgraded Universal Express passes, which were almost the same price as the tickets.

Oh, what a rookie mistake. We ended up standing in some lines for over an hour in the hot sun. It sucked a lot of the joy out of the day and I left with a mean sunburn.

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That step count, though…

If you want a truly enjoyable experience, it’s ESSENTIAL to splurge for the Express Unlimited pass, even just for one day of your stay. Imagine all of the rides you could take if you weren’t standing in line all day. We always get our money’s worth. Last month we went on every ride at least twice (some as many as 25! Not joking.), spent over 11 hours walking around, and racked up almost 30,000 steps. Per day.

Now go out and get your annual pass. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
*Ticket prices change almost daily. Please visit Universal’s site for up-to-date pricing.
**Other pass options available, visit Universal for more details.